Longtime Melbourne civil rights activist Cleave Frink died Tuesday.

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Cleave Frink, the longtime anti-drug activist in Melbourne who worked to improve police relations and helped separate the counters in dinette shops during the civil rights movement, has died.

He was 78 years old.

Frink, who was also a past president of the South Brevard NAACP and minister of the Greater Life Fellowship Ministries, died Tuesday after a brief illness, family members said.

Frink’s contributions were discussed during the Melbourne City Council meeting Tuesday when news of his death became known. There was a moment of silence for him.

“I am honored to call Cleave a friend and mentor,” said Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey. “The Reverend Frink has served our Melbourne community with love, passion and commitment. His impact is immeasurable and he will be greatly missed.”

Described by friends and family as a Renaissance man, Frink studied law and was an accomplished musician, speaking of stints at the Apollo Theater and supporting artists such as rock and soul musicians Ike and Tina Turner.

Cleave Frink.

But the Melbourne resident, who ran unsuccessfully for city council four times, had a strong passion for social justice throughout his life, often working quietly behind the scenes.

“Cleave has been a very valuable member of this community for many years. He was an activist; He was there with and beside me, “said Leonard Ross, former president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition.” He served the congregation as a pastor. He was a staunch ally of mine. ”

Frink is one of seven siblings. He was born in the small agricultural town of Shallot in North Carolina’s coastal markets. His father, Andrew Frink, owned the land and used it to grow tobacco and corn, family members said.

The Frink family also owned a shrimp boat.

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Early on, he became involved in the civil rights movement and worked with a wave of other students to separate the lunch counters at Woolworth.

Frink once remembered telling Dr. Saw Martin Luther King Jr. speak at a number of rallies and often spoke of the influence of the murdered civil rights leader.

“It’s a message that is just as relevant today,” he said once during an interview with FLORIDA TODAY.

Frink would later move to the Bronx, a borough of New York City.

The music spoke to Frink, a multi-instrumentalist and singer who loved the guitar and the Hammond B3 organ.

Split Frink and others in an undated photo about Project Response, an HIV awareness campaign.

“I was an experienced musician. I played and played guitar at the Apollo every weekend. Back then, very few artists brought their bands with them. BB King brought his own band with him, the horns, everything, ”said Frink in a 2018 interview.

He also talked about playing for Tina Turner in the mid-1960s and supporting Chuck Berry. He would continue to sing and play with close friends such as former Melbourne police officer Joe Davis.

“He was on the road a lot in the 60s. He gave up everything to be with my mother. They would have been married 54 years this coming weekend, ”said his son Cleave Frink Jr., a California-based filmmaker.

Frink was drafted into the US Army in the mid-1960s.

He served four years but didn’t go to Vietnam, his son said.

He moved to Palm Bay and later to Melbourne, where he worked for Harris Corp. worked, engaged in community affairs, and partnered with other citizens to reach out to the youth.

“For many years, my father looked after children who were in juvenile detention. In his church, he helped people create their resumes to help people find their way, ”said Frink Jr.

“My father worked so hard to make so many better lives. He really loved working with young people, ”he said.

Fink worked as a substitute teacher at high schools in Palm Bay and Melbourne in his later years.

He also marched on with other community leaders, including Rev. Carol Glanton and Clarence Rowe, who had passed away earlier this year.

Frink, who named a park on Lipscomb Street in his honor, has continued to appear at community meetings in recent months and ask questions.

“He was a great patriarch and leader who led by example,” said Robert Johnson, also a past president of the South Brevard NAACP.

Frink, part of the NAACP’s local legal advisory board, actively spoke to law enforcement and youth groups behind the scenes to help quell possible riots.

He actively sought solutions and often attended state conferences to discuss crime prevention efforts in the black community.

He attended the University of Florida Law School in 1979, said Frink Jr.

“He couldn’t afford to stay at school and support the family, so he had to give up his dreams. He later graduated from Rollins’ with an industrial consulting degree,” said Frink Jr.

“He just wanted to give people the opportunity to be heard.”

The agreements have not yet been finalized. Frink is survived by his wife Fronitta, son Frink Jr., and a daughter, Joy Bornealus.

JD Gallop is a Criminal Justice / Breaking News reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or [email protected]. Twitter: @JDGallop.

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